[ prop-er ]
See synonyms for: properpropers on

  1. adapted or appropriate to the purpose or circumstances; fit; suitable: the proper time to plant strawberries.

  2. conforming to established standards of behavior or manners; correct or decorous: a very proper young man.

  1. fitting; right: It was only proper to bring a gift.

  2. strictly belonging or applicable: the proper place for a stove.

  3. belonging or pertaining exclusively or distinctly to a person, thing, or group.

  4. strict; accurate: proper pronunciation.

  5. in the strict sense of the word (usually used postpositively): Shellfish do not belong to the fishes proper. Is the school within Boston proper or in the suburbs?

  6. Grammar.

    • (of a name, noun, or adjective) designating a particular person or thing and written in English with an initial capital letter, as Joan, Chicago, Monday, American.

    • having the force or function of a proper name: a proper adjective.

  7. normal or regular.

  8. belonging to oneself or itself; own.

  9. Chiefly British Informal. complete or thorough: a proper thrashing.

  10. Ecclesiastical. used only on a particular day or festival: the proper introit.

  11. Heraldry. (of a device) depicted in its natural colors: an oak tree proper.

  12. Informal.

    • excellent; capital; fine.

    • good-looking or handsome.

  13. Mathematics. (of a subset of a set) not equal to the whole set.

  14. Archaic. of good character; respectable.

  1. Informal. thoroughly; completely.

  1. Ecclesiastical. a special office or special parts of an office appointed for a particular day or time.

Origin of proper

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English propre, from Old French, from Latin proprius “one's own”

Other words for proper

Other words from proper

  • prop·er·ly, adverb
  • prop·er·ness, noun
  • un·prop·er, adjective

Words Nearby proper Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use proper in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for proper


/ (ˈprɒpə) /

  1. (usually prenominal) appropriate or suited for some purpose: in its proper place

  2. correct in behaviour or conduct

  1. excessively correct in conduct; vigorously moral

  2. up to a required or regular standard

  3. (immediately postpositive) (of an object, quality, etc) referred to or named specifically so as to exclude anything not directly connected with it: his claim is connected with the deed proper

  4. (postpositive foll by to) belonging to or characteristic of a person or thing

  5. (prenominal) British informal (intensifier): I felt a proper fool

  6. (usually postpositive) (of heraldic colours) considered correct for the natural colour of the object or emblem depicted: three martlets proper

  7. maths logic (of a relation) distinguished from a weaker relation by excluding the case where the relata are identical. For example, every set is a subset of itself, but a proper subset must exclude at least one member of the containing set: See also strict (def. 6)

  8. archaic pleasant or good

  1. British dialect (intensifier): he's proper stupid

  2. good and proper informal thoroughly: to get drunk good and proper

  1. the parts of the Mass that vary according to the particular day or feast on which the Mass is celebrated: Compare ordinary (def. 10)

Origin of proper

C13: via Old French from Latin prōprius special

Derived forms of proper

  • properly, adverb
  • properness, noun

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012